In the latest edition of “Things That Should Absolutely Not Be News,” Colin Kaepernick, the former starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, has decided not to stand for the national anthem. This is only news because Kaepernick has about two more weeks before he’ll be sitting on his couch for the playing of the national anthem, having lost his starting job to none other than Blaine Gabbert. Prior to unseating Kaepernick in SF, Gabbert was formerly best known for being the worst quarterback in the league. So there’s that.
It’s true that Kaepernick had one brilliant, stunningly good season in the NFL, in which he replaced Alex Smith as the starter and led the Niners all the way to the Super Bowl, the first QB to do so since Hall-of-Famer Steve Young. In a city that had become somewhat accustomed to brilliant quarterback play throughout the Montana and Young eras, it’s understandable that he became somewhat of a celebrity overnight.
And while Kaepernick performed decently for the next two seasons, it’s easy to see that his strong play can be, at least in part, attributed to the coaching of Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh, who appears to be able to turn any quarterback he touches into gold, departed from the 49ers prior to the 2015 season. Perhaps not surprisingly, Kaepernick became immediately average, accounting for nearly twice as many turnovers as touchdowns before exiting for the season in Week Nine—partially due to injury, partially due to poor performance. At the time of his injury, the Niners were 2-6.
The only reason I mention all of this is because Kaepernick was nearly certain to be cut before the start of the season. Although the Niners are on the hook for a guaranteed salary of $12M, Kaepernick’s play has just been that bad. Plus, he’s coming off of a significant injury and surgery, and the one strength he had—that being arm strength—appears to have been diminished greatly. It seems that they may prefer to eat his salary and give themselves the chance to get a better backup quarterback. Yes, that’s correct—they’d start freaking Blaine Gabbert over him and pay him his salary to sit on the couch.
So what better way to ensure that you don’t get cut than to place yourself at the center of a Social Justice War?
“Kap” vaguely claims that he’s protesting police brutality, and that once that gets resolved, he’ll stand again. Far be it from me, the whitest of all white people, to judge Kaepernick’s street cred. However, is the half-white adopted child of two white, suburban parents who willingly chose the University of Nevada for his collegiate schooling, who currently earns eight figures a year to play a game…is this the guy who really understands police brutality in the urban war zones of this country? Does he know what it’s like to be a police officer in Chicago, where there were 57 shootings last weekend alone? Hell, does he even know what it’s like to be a resident of such a hellhole?
Of course not. And while I personally believe that the flag of this nation is beyond reproach and should be honored at every opportunity, I also understand that part of this nation’s greatness is the freedom to not honor it. I have no problem with Kaepernick’s decision to sit as a form of protest. I have a problem with the insincerity and timing of it.
The 49ers, as a result, have been placed in a terrible spot. If they cut Kaepernick, they’re racists. If they don’t, they’ve put themselves in a precarious situation at the most important position on the field, with a below-average starter and a malcontent backup.
Kaepernick, of course, knows this. He says that he’s prepared to be cut because of his social protest. In reality, he was prepared to be cut because of his poor play—now he’s prepared to be the center of a media storm purely of his own creation.
Well played, Kap. Well played.